I confess: I love skulls.  Maybe it's too much heavy metal, maybe it's "The-Nightmare-Before-Christmas-ophilia" that has gripped countless millions.  Whatever the reason, nothing beats a skull for eye-catching appeal and creepiness.

As I mentioned on my previous blog, China doesn't do Death.  At all.  The morbid fascination that The West has with death does not exist here in China.  So naturally one would be confused to see skulls and crossbones everywhere on China's streets.

Now I'm not just talking about rebellious teenagers' punk-rock fashion.  I'm talking EVERYWHERE.  On fashionistas' scarves.  On old ladies' blouses.  On childrens' T-shirts.  On little doggie sweaters, for crying out loud.  Everywhere.
The variety is quite surprising as well.  Rarely will you see blatantly evil, fang-toothed, fiery demon skulls like the kind that we Westerners like to tattoo on ourselves and emblazon on our rock T-shirts and tricked-out lowriders.  The skulls one encounters in China (and the rest of East Asia, from what I've seen on TV) are rather benign and often cutesy skulls.

But they're still SKULLS, people.  Skulls come from dead people, and cutesy skulls come from dead CHILDREN.  Now I can understand if this was a culture enchanted by the gruesome and macabre, but this is China.  I just don't get it.

On a personal note, I think it's cool, actually.  I've got a hoodie with four separate skull designs, and my wife and I have matching skull T-shirts (now I know I've hated on this subject on other people's blogs but when skulls are involved, it's cool, so zip it).  I've always wanted to get a skull tattoo but that would go counter to the "nice guy with tattoos" image I try to maintain.  But a skull is just a skull, just a part of human anatomy. The fact is, death is not cool or fashionable, but it's a reality of life and shouldn't be ignored or feared.  The West is fascinated too much by it, and China is too petrified by it; the balance, like all things, is in the middle.

The last straw came yesterday when my wife and I were visiting a historic temple with one of my wife's friends.  She's a very typical Chinese girl who works in a local hospital, so I was a bit surprised when my wife told me that she has a tattoo.  I said, "Oh, really?" and my wife's friend said that she wanted to get it removed because Chinese men don't like girls with tattoos.  My wife lifted up her friend's shirt so I could see her lower back.  I was expecting a small rose or poorly-done angel, and my eyes nearly bugged out of my head when I saw a scowling skull glaring at me with flames the entire width of her back.  It was the last thing I expected to see on a girl like this, but it just reiterates the paradox I've been talking about.

Of course, I told my wife's friend that all guys like girls with tattoos, no matter what they say ;-P.

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